By John Hays/Sports editor
Roy Kidd does not want to talk about it. When someone brings the subject up, Kidd bristles and shrugs, like it’s no big deal. A big deal? No way. Becoming the seventh coach in collegiate history to win 300 games. No big deal? Joining the likes of legendary coaches Paul “Bear” Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno in the coveted 300 club. No big deal? Not to Kidd, who is only one victory shy of the milestone. When Kidd approached the lectern to address the press on Media Day, he didn’t want to talk about 300 wins or individual accolades. He did, however, want to talk about the Colonels’ trek back to the pinnacle of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Eastern was picked to finish third in the conference with little surprise. The Colonels return only five starters on offense. Kidd has the task of replacing his top two quarterbacks, top two tailbacks and the top five receivers.
But Kidd thinks that the battle for the top quarterback spot should give the Colonels a top-flight passing game, along with the ability to scramble and run the option. Sophomore Toki McCray and junior transfer Travis Turner are the leading candidates for the job, and both have potential to fill the spot.
“I think we will be better at quarterback at times this year,” Kidd said. “I think both of these young men can step in and give us the leadership needed at that spot. We have got to have that guy who will come up with the big play, and I think that both of these guys are capable of doing this.”
Kidd is also looking forward to the establishing a running game similar to that of the championship teams of twenty years ago. But, once again, inexperience rears its uncertain head.
Red-shirt freshman C.J. Hudson, who ranks third in rushing in Florida high school history, and University of Florida transfer Chuck Marks will compete for the starting tailback spot, along with Jason Gray
“I think we have two or three tailbacks that we can win with, and can hit the big play.” Kidd said. “Hudson, Marks and Gray, these kids can run. They can hit the holes quick and can get out and make the big run.”
The Colonels may be shorthanded on offense, but Kidd has the pleasure of welcoming back eight defensive starters, along with 20 lettermen.
The defense, a unit that finished fourth in the country in total defense (259.6 yards a game) and fifth in the nation in points allowed (14.2), is led by pre-season All-American Nick Hill and all-conference safety Yeremiah Bell. And of eight juniors, Kidd expects four or five to start.
However, the linebacking corps may well be the strong point of the defense. The Colonels’ top five linebackers return from last year’s squad.
Nick Sullivan, an All-OVC honorable mention selection in 2000, will anchor the strongside linebacker position.
Sullivan led the Colonels with four quarterback sacks and 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Senior Tim Gibbens joins Sullivan at middle linebacker, along with Gerald Palmer. Richmond native Chris Minter has been moved to defensive end because of his athleticism. Kidd believes this group will play a huge role in the Colonels’ defensive success this season.
“We are very strong at this position,” Kidd said. “We have four excellent linebackers and they are great athletes. I’m really excited about these kids and their attitudes,” Kidd said. “I’m enthused about this season and ready to go. I can’t wait to get started.”